GOOD MORNING! Last week was Yom HaShoah, the remembrance day for the Holocaust. Every thinking person has likely asked him/herself questions about God and the Holocaust. Perhaps my piece below will give food for thought.
Q & A: IS IT POSSIBLE TO BELIEVE IN A GOOD GOD IN LIGHT OF THE HOLOCAUST?
When one gets an answer to a question, there is usually an emotional satisfaction in hearing the answer. There is no emotional satisfaction in any answer one might receive to this question. We all live with the pain and suffering endured by our brethren during the Holocaust.
The only reason we ask questions about the Almighty and the Holocaust, is that intuitively we know that there are three intrinsic attributes to the Almighty:
- He is All-Knowing.
- He is All-Powerful.
- He is All-Good.
If one takes away anyone of these attributes, the question falls away. If the Almighty is not All-Knowing, then we would say, "He just didn't know." If the Almighty is not All-Powerful, then we would say, "He knew, but just couldn't do anything about it." And if the Almighty is not All-Good, then there is no question in the first place.
The Holocaust is overwhelming. Over 6,000,000 Jewish dead who died in the some of the most tortured, unspeakable manners possible. Yet, the very same questions about the purpose of life and how the Almighty interacts with us must be asked with the death of even one baby.
The Almighty created this world for our good and for our pleasure. Usually, when one thinks about pleasure, he thinks of good food, nice music, a beautiful beach ... material pleasures. In truth, there is a hierarchy of pleasure ranging from the material pleasures, to love, to doing the right thing, to perfecting the world to the awe and love of God. People intuitively know that there are levels of pleasures although they don't always focus on the fact. For example, a rich person would give all of his riches (material level) to save the life of his child (love level), yet he would leave his family (love level) in order to save the world for humanity (i.e.., to fight with the army in World War II -- the meaning level).
In essence, there is more to life than physical existence. A human being is comprised of both a body and a soul. Each of us would give up our life to save the lives of 1,000 babies ... or perhaps even one baby. There is more pleasure in the spiritual level of meaning than in the material level of pleasure.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato teaches in The Path of the Just, that the real pleasure in life is not in this world, but in the next. The ultimate pleasure is a soul pleasure, the spiritual pleasure of being close to the Almighty. This world is the place where we earn the pleasure; the Mitzvot are the means by which we work to receive that pleasure.
If that is the case, then why would the Almighty place us in this world first? If the Almighty is All-Good, let him just create us as souls in the next world. The answer: a poor man enjoys the bread that he has earned by the sweat of his brow more than bread which is given to him unearned. We have greater pleasure in the World to Come having earned our reward in this world through our decisions and our actions.
This world has meaning. What we do in this world has meaning. What happens to us, how we react to our circumstances, the impact on others has meaning. And there is meaning in the life and death of one baby and the lives and deaths of 6,000,000 or our people. It can only be this way with an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God.
If we realize that our essence is a soul, our goal is to perfect ourselves and come close to God and that this world is not the ultimate world for pleasure, then we can begin to look for meaning in death as well as in life.
Portion of the Week
The Torah continues with the laws of physical and spiritual purity. These portions focus upon Tzora'as, a physical affliction for transgressing the laws of speech -- and the purification process. Tzora'as progressively afflicts home, clothes and skin unless one cleans up his speech.
There are two types of speech transgressions:
- Loshon Hora (literally "evil tongue")-- making a derogatory or damaging statement about someone even though you are speaking the truth.
- Rechilut (literally "tale bearing") -- telling someone the negative things another person said about him or did against him. (Undoing damage due to speech is likened to trying to gather together all the feathers from a down pillow -- after they are cast to the wind.)
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states regarding finding Tzora'as on one's home, "And he that owns the house shall come and tell the Cohen, saying, 'It seems to me as if there is a plague in the house' " (Leviticus 14:35). Why does the Torah tell us that he should say, "It seems to me" rather than "there is" tzora'as?
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz notes that there is very little difference between "it is" and "it appears as if." In any event, it depends upon a Cohen to come and make the determination of whether or not the house is afflicted with tzora'as. However, the Torah is teaching us a practical lesson on how we should speak.
People think that what they are saying is correct, but often make mistakes because of wrong information or faulty perception. By recognizing this reality about ourselves and then prefacing our statements with "It seems to me," it is easier to concede that someone else is correct. Also, it makes it easier for others to agree with you! It facilitates communication and finding truth.
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 27:
(or go to candlelighting.org)
Guatemala 6:00 Hong Kong 6:30 Honolulu 6:37
J'Burg 5:23 London 7:59 Los Angeles 7:16
Melbourne 5:20 Miami 7:32 Moscow 7:40
New York 7:30 Singapore 6:49
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A conclusion is often the place
where you got tired of thinking.
Dedicated by...In Loving Memory of
Judge Nathaniel J. Ely
Michael and Diana Epstein
Happy 32nd Anniversary!
Michael and Diana Epstein